What Is “Gospel”? The “Gospel” and “Kingdom” in Acts, Part 1

emptytomb2Acts is, of course, Luke’s sequel to the Gospel According to Luke. I figure it would help us better understand Luke’s “gospel of the kingdom” if we see how the words are used in Acts.

The words are used lots of times, and so I’ll skip merely incidental mentions.

The apostles’ mission

(Acts 1:3-8) After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Luke here sets the outline of Acts. The kingdom is about —

  • baptism with the Holy Spirit
  • the apostles’ testimony about Jesus going to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to all nations

Or as Paul liked to say, to the Jews first but also to the Greeks. And we will see that the gospel spread exactly as outlined in v. 8.

Apostles flogged

(Acts 5:41-42) The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

The gospel is —

  • Jesus is the Messiah

We tend to read “Christ” as part of Jesus’ name — as though it were his last name. But “Christ” is the Greek word for the Hebrew “Messiah.” The good news is that Jesus is the Son of God and king of prophecy.

The gospel in Samaria

(Acts 8:5-12) Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

We see here that the gospel finally spread to the Samaritans, and led immediately to baptism.

The Ethiopian eunuch

(Acts 8:32-38) The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”

35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” 37 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

The eunuch was reading about Messiah as prophesied in Isaiah 53:7-8, and Philip taught him that Jesus is the Messiah.

Peter preaches to Cornelius

(Acts 10:34-43) Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached– 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen–by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Peter preached to Cornelius — the first Gentile convert — the “good news of peace.” What good news did Cornelius hear?

  • God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right
  • Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of all (the Jews called God “Lord”; “all” emphasizes Jesus as Lord over the pagans and their “gods” as well — he is not just Lord of the Jews)
  • Jesus healed and did good
  • Jesus was crucified and resurrected on the third day (hanging on a tree refers to the Law’s curse on the hanged)
  • Jesus experienced a physical resurrection — unlike the Greek view of disembodied spirits dwelling forever in Hades
  • Jesus will judge the living and the dead
  • Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name

Paul in Pisidia Antioch

Paul preached the gospel in the synagogue. This is a lengthy quotation, but Luke surely included the sermon to give his readers an understanding of Paul’s gospel preaching.

(Acts 13:16-41) Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.

“After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

23 “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

Notice the outline of the first part of the sermon —

  • God provides freedom from slavery
  • God provides the Promised Land
  • God provides protection through the judges and kings
  • God raised up David as king
  • John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus
  • God sent Jesus, the Savior of promise

Why include all this? Good, synagogue-attending Jews knew this story well. Paul’s point surely is to include Jesus within the Story of scripture — God is in charge, God provides salvation, God set the stage for Jesus, and now it’s finally happened.

26 “Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’ 34 The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ 35 So it is stated elsewhere: “‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’

36 “For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. 37 But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.

38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. 40 Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: 41 “‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'”

Paul then explains that Jesus died and was raised as prophesied. The result — also as prophesied — is: “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

Paul preaches in Lystra

(Acts 14:15-17) “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Paul was, of course, speaking with pagans. Rather than speaking of prophecy and the exodus, he introduces them to “the living God,” and rather than introducing God as the God who damns, Paul announces the God who “fills your hearts with joy.” That is, Paul introduces God as the source of all good things.

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5 Responses

  1. I am struggling to connect the verses cited with your conclusions (the items next to the bullets).

    For example, Acts 1

    6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

    7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

    “Luke here sets the outline of Acts.
    The kingdom is about – baptism with the Holy Spirit”

    Verse 6, they ask Jesus about restoring the Kingdom.

    Verse 7, Jesus answers that it is not for them to know the times or dates

    Verse 8, I read the “But” at the start of the verse as a change of subject, not a continuation of the answer in verse 7. I don’t connect receiving power through the Holy Spirit with the question about the Kingdom.

    Does what I am writing make sense?

  2. Luke 3:4-6, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ”

    John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

    John was preparing the way to God. John was preaching that Jesus is the way to God not baptism. John preached that he baptized with water but that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit, Mark 1:7-8 “And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus didn’t say baptism is the way to the Father Jesus said I am the way.

  3. Dwayne, I believe Jay is simply connecting verse 4 and 5 with verse 3, seeing the conversation in verses 4 and 5 as part of the way Jesus talked about the kingdom, which was mentioned in verse 3.

  4. There is one way to God – Jesus. God accepts us baptizing us with His Holy Spirit.

    John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

  5. Keith,

    Verses 4 and 5 could be part of the way Jesus was speaking about the Kingdom. They could also be Jesus speaking about something else. I don’t see an explicit reference in verses 4 and 5 to verse 3. Hence, people can interpret it differently.

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